8.0 MAUGHER BEACH
Peter McNab's house was located within easy reach of his fishery business on Maugher Beach. Curing fish, however, was not the only use made of the beach. From the 1780's until the second decade of the nineteenth century, military authorities maintained gibbets at the seaward end of the beach. These gibbets were, in fact, a framework from which the bodies of executed military personnel were displayed as a grim warning to others who might consider mutiny or desertion. The bodies, often tarred to slow the action of the elements, were visible to all ships entering or leaving the harbour. On one occasion, four men held responsible for an August, 1809, mutiny aboard H.M.S.Columbine were executed on September 18 and later left to dance from the gibbets on Maugher Beach.
Tradition recalls that Peter McNab was greatly upset by the presence of the gibbets so close to his home. On a particularly stormy night, when several bodies hung from the gibbets, the rattling of chains and creaking of the structure so angered Peter McNab that he and several tenants cut down the bodies and destroyed the gibbets.
When British authorities finally abandoned the gibbets it was done not to appease McNab and his tenants but because a more practical use for Maugher Beach had been found. In 1815, construction of a martello tower, later to be named Sherbrooke Tower, began near the outer tip of Maugher Beach, the first fortification to be established on McNabs Island. Built to assist in the defence of Halifax during the War of 1812, Sherbrooke Tower was not completed until 1828, thirteen years after work had commenced. Upon completion, a lighthouse was placed on the tower to aid in navigation.
The lighthouse was later the scene of an incredible display when, in 1852, the Nova Scotia Government placed the facility under the exclusive control of Dr. Abraham Gesner for one month. In December of that year Gesner used his newly discovered kerosene fuel to operate the light atop the lighthouse. It is said the experiment was so successful that mariners veered off course to witness the amazing spectacle.
A sketch of Maugher Beach, drawn shortly after completion of the fortification, shows Sherbrooke Tower and several buildings which occupied the beach (Figure 18). Those buildings at the harbour end of the beach were in use during construction of the tower and were perhaps associated with construction efforts or the fishery there. Two of these buildings remained in 1853, although a map completed in that year lists them as "wooden buildings in a state of decay."
Officers Quarters were located near the landward end of Maugher Beach, adjacent to the wharf.
Margaret Cook recalls that "from the hill above the lighthouse, during the War of 1812, Peter II and his family watched the "Shannon" tow the "Chesapeake" into Halifax Harbour."